What is Snowflake?
and how does it compare to a relaxing ski-trip?
Close your eyes, travel back or forward to times without travel restrictions and think about a ski-holiday. No, not that part... Get out of the après-ski bar and focus on the white hills and actually ... skiing.
There isn't much more relaxing than gliding down a well prepped ski-slope. Let the infrastructure do the hard work and just enjoy the ride. The infrastructure around you allows you to be taken up the mountain by lifts, day and night people and materials are working to provide you with a perfect gliding experience and in case something goes wrong, support is under way immediately. You are experiencing the joy of being able to focus on only that part you were looking to do: skiing.
Things used to be quite different. My grandparents were with the first to drive almost 2 full days on a 1000km trip on sketchy roads to reach their hotel in Austria. They walked uphill by putting rabbit-skins under their wooden skis in order to not slide down and followed a personal guide hiking all the way up a hill. 3 hours and a whole lot of sweat later, they were ready to slide down (after a few well deserved Obstlers), dodging trees and hidden obstacles, crossing fingers to not get buried under an avalanche and promising themselves it would be only 1 walk uphill a day.
Even though I also see the romance in the way it used to be - and once every few years I wouldn't mind enjoying a bit of old school- , I like to optimize my percentage of gliding downhill, as effortless as possible. Enjoying the ride to the fullest.
It all comes down to a skilled team and trustworthy infrastructure, allowing me to focus on my end goal only. I like that during my holidays, but also during work.
I'm pretty sure Snowflake was first discussed in or around one of the après-ski bars. One of the last days of the ski holidays, Anton aus Tirol blasting through the speakers, and one of the 3 Snowflake founders was staring into his empty beer glass thinking about the new project one of those pesky business users came up with right before the holiday. It would certainly require extra space on the existing data warehouse (DWH) and everybody knows it becomes technical from there on. The DWH manager has spent a professional lifetime to get the DWH where it is now and he becomes emotional when people ask to add something to it or change it. Even if the DWH manager could be persuaded, there will be weeks of admin and follow up to get the correct infrastructure and extra licenses available.
A tap on the shoulder and a new beer snap him back to reality, he looks around and realizes it shouldn't be made that complex. People should have the right to start collecting and/or sharing data without being forced to go through a gruesome process. Together with 2 other ski enthusiasts he lays the foundation of what would become Snowflake and the goal would be: an easy-to-use and accessible DWH.
On a napkin they jot down their top 10 wish-list (in no specific order):
No need to invest in physical infrastructure: save money, time and maintenance hassle (Cloud based/SaaS)
Able to run on any cloud platform, hence no vendor lock-in (Cloud agnostic on AWS, Azure or Google Cloud)
Low- to zero-maintenance (unlike the other cloud based DWH options)
Highest level of flexibility in scaling up and down (Storage & Compute separated)
Able to capture both structured and semi-structured data (the latter being more and more of importance with weblogs, HTML or XML)
Fast (as in setting it up in seconds and boosting performance compared to your existing DWH)
Security that is built in, not bolted on
Pay-as-you-use and affordable
SQL based (no need to retrain the existing data-team)
Did we write down really Fast? (we love speed)
With that list in mind, they built the Snowflake platform from the ground up, focusing on unburdening people in their data analytics journey. Snowflake was born, the rest is history.
Why would you care? Well, you can't get access to necessary business-insights (and become a data/facts driven organization) when data itself is not correctly collected, stored, secured and accessible. Your business knowledge will only reach as far as the facts/data that are available, so you better have a solid and scalable environment in place that efficiently stores data
What is Snowflake to me and to our company?
At Biztory, we didn't get our Snowflake aha-moment on a ski holiday but let’s say -for the sake of the Blog storyline- that it was a very snowy week when we did. We have been a data analytics company for over 6 years and when supporting our customers with getting answers out of their data, we often bump into the limits of the database of our customers. This is frustrating for all parties involved as critical business questions can remain unanswered or delayed because of these limits.
We realized that, if we wanted to deliver our mission statement "We help you get answers from data. Easier. Faster.", we had to intervene with the DWH too. Front-end analytics only wouldn't always get us all the way. As we want to provide an end-to-end data analytics environment, we investigated the landscape of available DWH providers in search for a solution that was easy to set-up and to manage, ready for both enterprise and SME customers and affordable. We found out Snowflake is the DWH solution that outran its competitors on these aspects by far and it helps the company had the most future-proof vision also. Snowflake is the most flexible DWH solution available today and it helps us in helping our customers -no matter the size- better and faster.
We are certainly not the only ones with a preference for Snowflake. Business is booming. I bet the ski-trips of the founders of Snowflake became a tad more exuberant compared to their trips before 2012, the year Snowflake was founded. Organizations in all verticals, also those you might think aren't too keen on cloud platforms like financial institutions or Governments, have clicked on their skis and snowboards and are enjoying their own smooth Snowflake rides. We can only agree with their decisions and will keep on supporting the slope towards insights-driven decision-making.
Whether it's your first time on the Snowflake slopes and you'd like to briefly learn what the fuzz is all about or whether you get the basics and you'd like to learn some gnarly off-piste techniques, we can support you to reach your destination without braking something. See you at the top!